Monday, January 14, 2013

The Beauty of the Parking Lot

Luc-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, June 2009

Ok, so this parking lot is beautiful because it is a) on the Normandy Coast of France, and b) features a sunset. I chose this vacation shot my daughter took because it fits today's post, but I actually want to talk about the beauty of the parking lot as a writerly tool.

The past few days I have been trimming an essay to meet the word count of a call for submissions, and the "parking lot" method has made this much easier. All this means is that I open another document, give it the same file name as the piece I am editing, but add the words "parking lot." Then, when I cut passages, I paste them into the parking lot document, rather than just hitting the delete button. That way the trimming goes much faster because I can be harsher. Those precious phrases are not lost, they are just "parked."

I have occasionally gone back and put something in again that I had previously parked. After all, the editorial process is a fickle one. As you trim, you home in on a piece's meaning, and sometimes something you thought should be cut actually needs to go back in. The beauty of that writerly parking lot is that your hard work in writing those words and sentences is not lost.

I also never delete my parking lots because once in a while I have been working on another piece and had that keen sense of having already written about this, and sure enough, I find it in a parking lot (the document search function is also a beautiful thing). Most of the time, however, a parking lot never gets looked at again once its corresponding piece is submitted.

Sometimes the parking lot does get full, meaning there is no more I can cut. With this essay I am working on, I started with about 1,300 words and am now down to 878, still not quite within the word count range of 700 - 800 words. This is when the piece goes off to an editor friend. She can see what I cannot, and perhaps she'll ask me, despite all the cutting, to elaborate on something I took out. The beauty then is that it's still in the parking lot, ready to be evaluated again.

12 comments:

  1. Ich muss ganz breit grinsen. Ich arbeite auch mit der parking lot Methode. Nur bei mir heisst das Dokument wie das eigentliche Dokument underline Textschnipsel. Aber parking lot ist viel viel schoener. So lustig. Und als Hilfe fuers Schreiben soooo wichtig.

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    1. Barbara - Schnipsel klingt doch irgendwie suess aber eben auch etwas endgueltig, im Sinne von nicht mehr verwendbar. Das Gute am Parkplatz ist, dass es eben da bleibt, falls man's doch noch braucht.

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  2. I've often used the parking lot idea to help colleagues trim a brainstorm list. I'd never thought of it as a writing tool, however. Thank you!

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    1. Carry - in a way trimming a brainstorm is similar to trimming a draft, so there you go!

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  3. Creating a parking lot will help me be a much sharper editor. Now I won't fear cutting, knowing that I can always go back and retrieve something. For a book length project, I might name the parking lots by chapter title or subject lest one file get too long. Thanks for the great idea.

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    1. Jennifer - that's exactly the idea: the parking lot makes it easier to cut because you're not deleting. Such a simple idea really, right? Definitely name your parking lots for your different chapters (that's what I did) as that will make the contents easier to manage should you be looking for a specific passage you cut later on.

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  4. Thanks again for a helpful tip. Although I've finally forced myself to compose on a computer instead of a yellow legal pad, I have felt a writerly stab every time I hit "delete" no matter how small the change. However, every time I go in for another revision, I create a duplicate file, number it, and revise on that one. I really want to maintain previous drafts if it's extensive work. Now I'll add your parking lot to the mix.

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    1. Julie - your approach of having multiple version files obviously works, too. Problem for me would be that I'd end up with way too many revision files and then it would be an issue of figuring out in which version file a deleted passage might be when I don't remember the exact wording.

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  5. My parking lot is in a seperate folder in my email, with previous versions of each chapter.

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    1. William - sounds like your parking lot is a rather flued place.

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  6. Annette, Thanks so much for such a validating post. I've used a much blander "Deletes" folder for my various tightening jobs. Within the folder I've got files entitled, "Deletes, 2012" all the way down to "deletes, 2009." Yes, I've been editing this memoir for many years. But I love the Parking Lot idea. I may just steal it for my Deletes, 2013 file. Thank you.

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    1. Janet - thank you for letting me know that you found this helpful! I do think "parking lot" sounds a bit more hopeful than "deletes," don't you think? That friendlier file name has a lot to do with the fact that it's easier to move something into a "parking lot" than a "deletes" file. After all, it might come out again...

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